Season 1: Episode #9
What makes a hero?
According to Philosopher and Scholar Joseph Campbell, a hero is an archetypal figure who takes a journey from his or her ordinary world, goes out on an adventure, through a decisive crisis wins a victory, then returns home transformed with gained wisdom to offer others. This podcast explores real people, real stories and the pivotal moments that changed the course of their lives forever.
I always say this thing in my posts and that's: you're amazing, you're awesome, you're worth it. There's only one you in this world. You're not a part of any type of assembly line, you're not a part of any type of mass production but you’re fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made. So, there's things in this world that only you can change OK?. And those changes that you want to see, be them first. So, you can go out in the world and make those changes.
I had the privilege of recording my first in-person episode with the amazing Janice Freeman. Some people get more than their fair share of challenges and Janice is one of them. With the odds stacked against her, she could’ve been crushed. But instead, she busted through the weight of misfortune and suffering and has become a voice of empowerment & hope for so many. May you also be empowered by the triumphant journey of this amazing Super Hero. I’m Belinda Lams and this is The Moment When…
The neo-soul artist from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Janice Freeman is the voice the nations have yet to hear. The soulfulness and round sounds of her vocal range are memorable, as proven with her trek on the 13th season of The Voice in which she finished in the Top 11.
Her new single “You” was released in February of last year and she’s currently working on a studio project due to release next year.
Okay, so Janice. How do we know each other?
We know each other through music. I met your amazing husband and I met you. You're amazing just as much as he is amazing— through the unstoppable gala and that's where it all began with us.
Yeah, my sister had hired you for that gig and she hired Jeff my husband to be the MD. And, you came here and rehearsed…to our home/ studio.
I totally forgot. I mean about Robin, that's how I met. I totally forgot. Absolutely, Robin, she's amazing.
Yeah, so Robin was producing that event, I guess. And, she hired you and brought you over here and I had to go do something and Jeff texted me. He said, “Get home right now. You have to hear her sing.” And, I had not heard you yet because I missed the season of The Voice that you were on.
Wow. Yes, I did not know that piece of information that Jeff text you and said, get here now.
He said, “Oh, my gosh, and we hear a lot of phenomenal singers.” So, he was just completely blown away. He's like you gotta get home. Make sure you're here before she leaves.
I'm absolutely honored. I just from the moment that I came here with Robin, met her here for the rehearsal, it’s just this something about even the atmosphere of this home of your place. Just you guys are amazing. So, I'm so glad I met you.
Thanks. Me too. And then, we had like a really sweet connection over.
We cried. You cried and we cried.
I cried. I'm just gonna tell on myself. I definitely cried it was just – you know what? When you meet people who don't have any connection as far as history, um but have gone through certain things and have experienced certain things on the same level, we didn’t never have to know each other physically before that day. It just seemed like we've known each other forever. I feel like I've known you guys forever. Um. And, I don't remember a time before that. So, I just appreciate the struggle. Because it kind of related to the struggle that I had gone through or was going through or is going through. And, it just makes you, it might as well be related, we’re sisters.
Yeah, fellowship in suffering. It's a weird strange thing but it bonds. Yeah.
It bonds the best of people and I believe that it is a great place for healing. Sad to say that most people don't get to that place because they don't want to share it. They're not transparent about it. But it is amazing when you can be transparent about your, your fight and things that you have experienced because. It will help other people, it definitely helped me.
Well, let's find out.
Let's find out.
Okay. So, what was your ordinary world like before you got pulled into your big journey?
So, I grew up in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I have known struggle since I could remember. I dealt with a lot of abuse, a lot of sexual abuse, physical abuse. So, as a result, I dealt with a lot of the other abuses. So, mental, emotional, other type of type of things. I did not grow up with my father. I didn't meet my father till I was ten years old. So, my mother raised all of us, my mom had seven children. And she raised us all on her own.
So, I was always the independent type. I had to be the independent type. I am a twin and I had three younger siblings, so I kind of , you know, was the big sister to them. I was right smack dab in the middle. it just was kind of on your own. My mom kind of she had to work so much, she's like, don't ever bring the police back to the house. Like please be safe but…I grew up in an abusive home not by her. You know, by her husband.
I kind of had to grow up quickly in the sense of a lot of my innocence was taken away. But, I was always the athletic type. I was about school. If there's one thing you dive until next time, I'm so glad I had school. So, I was straight-A student and we just moved around a lot, we had to.
Janice received her first call to adventure in 1999 through a series of tragedies.
My grandmother passed away of cancer, my aunt passed away of AIDS unfortunately. My brother, he's the next to the oldest, he was shot and killed. And my mom's only sister at that time, her only son was killed a week after my brother was killed. So, we had this kind of whiff of death that was like okay, I'm taking my kids and we're moving to California. We have family out here, so. I moved first. My mom moved me first. And they hadn’t moved yet so I moved here to Pasadena, CA with my Aunt.
I just was ending eighth grade and it was a really hard time for me. Experienced those series of deaths and then being alone without your family. It was a rough time trying to identify yourself, who you are, what kind of person you want to be as opposed to what you've experienced with the sexual abuse and stuff, you just don't know how to deal. I didn't like people. I did not trust them because they didn't prove that for me.
I hit rock bottom once I got out here. I didn't want to live. Again, I was a straight-A student still though, I was in track, I was on the swim team. I was on the Badminton team, it was so many things that I had going for me but I just wasn't happy on the inside. So, I made a few attempts.
To kill yourself?
Yeah, to kill myself.
Though she thought about it a lot, Janice never followed through, until she came to what she called The Big One. With a strong desire to end it all, she suddenly had another force pull in her a different direction.
I remember walking down the street, walking from the Boys and Girls Club and I walked into my church. That was a Bible study night and it changed my life. I sat in the back and I remember what I had on to this day. I just don't want this, I know something is pulling at me and I don't know what it is. I just know that if I don't get any help or if I don't have any type of change right now, I am definitely not going to see—
You're not gonna see ninth grade.
--ninth grade. That was an arrest. I call it a God's arrest for me. That's where he arrested my life like to get my attention and I was so glad he did.
What particularly spoke to you when you went there? What did you hear that you needed to hear?
You know what? I guess I saw a lot of people that look like me. There were a lot of young people and I saw a lot of young people active in the church. That’s the first time I was presented to Praise Dancing. I've always sang. So, whether I could sing or not, I've always loved music. I never knew about praise dancing, so I saw all these girls who look like me, my same age and they were dancing and happy. Okay, you know, maybe I could be a part of this. So, it was really the music, it was always the music for me that caught my attention and that's where that journey started.
I’m Belinda Lams and this is The Moment When…Today we’re talking with Janice Freeman about the drowning pain that pulled her under and the lifeline of hope that safely brought her to shore… Her story continues.
Janice became a part of that church. She immersed herself into Praise Dancing and felt like she had a family. In the meantime, her mom finally moved out to California and settled in Claremont. Janice moved from Pasadena to live with her mom, though continued her commitment to the church, taking 2.5-3 hour bus rides after school for rehearsals. Things were so much better. And then she got another call.
Boom! Middle of ninth grade I caught meningococcal meningitis. It was a bacterial form. So, I remember doing brunch, eating a honey bun and a orange juice and going to class and yeah, a honey bun and a orange juice that's how you know. These days I would never forget. And, my teacher thought I was playing because I started to shiver, but I wasn't cold. I remember telling her like, you know I don't play, you know, with school, so something is wrong. And so she told me to go to the nurse's office. My pastor at that time was the computer teacher there for the computer lab. So, as soon as I went to the nurse's office, my temperature was 104. It just shot up, couldn't move. He came to pray but they ended up sending me to Huntington and rigor mortis had already set in. So, to breathe was excruciating.
Blood cultures. Spinal taps. Janice was in a whirlwind of confusion and pain, trying to understand what had happened to her. The doctors put her in isolation and gave her mom about 4 weeks to arrange her funeral. How could this be happening after all that she had already been through? She decided to take it up with God.
You said that I would never feel pain anymore. I can't feel this pain anymore. I can't do this anymore. So, just take me I'm ready. No, that didn't work.
I remember this nurse coming in on this, they were trying to draw blood and I have really bad veins so this nurse could not get a line. They sent in a specialist and the specialist knew about God. So, she with the cartoon of Joseph king of Dreams was on TV, again these memorable moments. She's like do you know about Joseph? And I'm like, no but I'm so glad a cartoon is on. Again, I'm 14 years old, I'm still a kid. She’s like, well he's in the Bible. She's trying to find my vein and she ended up getting the first try though and she's telling me about this and
I started feeling a sense of peace come over me, because I was having anxiety attacks, I couldn't move. I didn't understand why, I didn't know at the time what does that mean. What do you mean? My body is registering dead but my spirit and soul was still here.
But, that's why I know for a fact like that's when my relationship started with God. Not at the time that I joined the church. It was it was a difference. We do service, we help people all the time but it wasn't until and I'ma connect it to that I met you, looked you in your face and connected with that pain and, even that you know that sorrow, those deep places that I felt our relationship started. So, I wasn't until I experienced him in pain and in that afraid place that our relationship started.
After 9 months of isolation, Janice was able to return home with nursing care, but couldn’t go back to school. Her body slowly healed until finally she was well enough to re-enter her normal life.
I just dove back right back in the church. I ended up being praise AND worship leader, part of this group that we were part of called MIG. We were singing and dancing. We ended up going to Japan with Ron Brown, he was a saxophonist and we did a song with him. So, he ended up taking us to Japan so we were able to see that and coming back and then the mess just started.
In the Hero’s Journey, the Hero encounters tests, allies, and enemies. Janice had already had plenty of each. And now, she met up with more.
When you experience betrayal in places that are supposed to be a place of refuge for you, it's no joke. Besides the illnesses that I was going through, when I was 21, I had gotten married… he was one of the youth ministers in the church and Hannah’s father. He was really abusive. I mean, he beat the dog crap out of me. okay, but it was after I gotten pregnant. So, Hannah was two weeks old and I couldn't take it anymore. That was the last time we literally fought and I was holding her like literally.
Fortunately but unfortunately I had to divorce and here I'm single-parent mother with this baby, newborn baby, I don't know what to do and my life is now here again in shambles. Not just with that, I got really sick after I had Hannah and they found cancer. I end up having cervical cancer and I was diagnosed with lupus which I currently live with today while dealing with this abusive divorce type situation.
Again, still part of the church though, and nobody knew that I was dealing with sexual abuse in the church. And the pastor including his son was sexually harrassing me and molesting me and those type of things. So, I could no longer sit and only reason I stayed so long is when I'm loyal, I'm loyal. I don't blame the church for what a person did. And, I thank God for that because a lot of people don't make that separation. They make the body of Christ suffer because of what people, individuals do. I ain’t gonna say that that was my view at first, but it was really hard to sit there. But I did have to make a decision to leave because I could no longer sit there and accept what somebody is saying but not living it. How do you expect me to live what you're saying and you aren't living what you're saying? And, I'm supposed to deal with this hurt? No. No. No, no.
So, I had to resign and I just hated, hated church. I hated singing. I stopped singing for a long time. I didn't want anything associated to anything that had to do. I was like, “God I love you but I don't— nobody better asked me to join, come visit nothing. I don’t want to do no church plays… nothing. “
The Moment When is a key turning point in the journey. For Janice, it came as a penetrating awareness that she couldn’t continue to live this way any longer.
I had this beautiful little baby growing up and how can I be her mommy and teach her the right things and have her pay for my bitterness or things that I won't let go or my unforgiveness? I don't want that for her.
And the moment I let that go, the moment I let what I felt I was entitled to, what I felt-- because I'm entitled to this pain, I'm entitled to feeling like, you know,I deserve to be pessimistic and I don't care. Once I let that go, everything started to flourish.
I mean, I met my husband who is amazing, I started singing again, gigs started coming. My household was happy, you know what I mean and I found a church finally because I trusted them enough to even walk through the door.
I think if nobody gets anything else from this entire interview or conversation, if you let go everything you are actually entitled to feeling, that peace that you looking for, that wholeness can really be. People think that holding on to that is like you're giving them a pass. Whether that's giving them a pass or not, you're still allowing them to take from you. Not forgiving that pastor, his family, and what they did after that, how they talked about me, how they spread lies, when I didn't do anything, I'm not allowing you to take nothing else from me, I'm not gonna allow you to take my future from me either. So, I had to forgive, and it's just been the best feeling of my life. I mean, I still deal with a lot of pain and fatigue and treatments and needles and all that stuff but my spirit, my soul is calm. My soul is at peace and it's just been the best decision I could have ever made in letting go.
You said that your daughter was a catalyst in some way for you to make that decision?
What really brought you to that point? I get that you had an awareness but was it a like a suddenly, you understood that you needed to let go or was it over time or how did it—
Oh, it was over time. I just kept getting sicker and sicker. The hospital stays went from a week to three months. I was fighting colon diseases. I mean, it almost took my life on several occasions and it was just revealed. Every day, you try and find ways to hold on to this madness and it's killing you.
I forgot what that quote or where it came from but it's like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die first or something. It’s true, you're killing yourself. Again, I would be the first to say you are absolutely right in how you feel. I was innocent, I was a kid.
Yeah, it's a justified position.
It's justified, but let it go. Let it go, let God deal with them how he see fit or needs to deal with them and allow him to bless your life and allow these things like love to come back in . I was in toxic relationships, like it was ridiculous just feeling like that's all I was worth receiving and even giving and that was terrible because I'm worth it. I'm worthy of love and as well as giving and receiving and I have purpose on this earth not just for people to use. No, but to make a difference.
What helped you understand that?
HMMM. it's just almost like you just maturing. It’s is a process. But, the more I exercise my relationship with God and I'm just sitting down and allowing him to truly get those hurtful places, everyday started to get a little brighter. I mean, I would write songs and just talk about it and it just seemed like I woke up as this person, but it's a process, it's definitely a process.
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Today we’re exploring how holding bitterness causes destruction and how letting go brings restoration with my guest Janice Freeman.
Even though there were plenty of tests and enemies on her journey, Janice also had allies right beside her.
I love my support system. It’s small but it's so great. My mother, again my daughter. Just sometimes I know God used her because she would literally just walk in my room, she was little and would be like, “Mom I just love you. Let me just lay here and hold you.” And I'm just like, who are-- I knew though that she is my saving grace. And I met my husband and he's just been, oh man, the life that I have and the illness is something that people don't understand. For him, not to understand it because he doesn't experience it, he is amazing at helping me get through it. And now, my church. But it's really that small core of family that just has helped me and helped me ride it through.
Just as diamonds are formed under tremendous pressure, this Hero was formed through all her pain and struggles.
There's nothing I can't accomplish now that I know that, now that I actually live that, knowin’ my worth.
But it brought on everything else. People think like it's the outside to an inside job, it's an inside to an outside job. When you change and accept things and you actually work them through, you start to attract that.I started feeling better, I started attracting better. I met you guys, I was on the Voice. I was find myself sitting in rooms with people that I would have never thought I would be sitting in the favor that is showing on my life period. I couldn't have attracted that if I would have stayed where I was at.
Stayed in the poison drinking.
--BABY…and I'm waiting for them to die, I'm waiting for them to die. C’mon! You really have to let go and I know that's the hardest thing to do. It is the hardest thing to do, things you don't understand. Pain you feel especially when those people aren't sorry. Oh, I was like, you mean to tell me I might not get an apology? Yeah, you might not and you need to be okay with that and move on with your life. So, whether you get it or not, it don't matter, it don't matter.
You move on and you soar and you be that example. Don't worry about anything else. So, it's those type things that we just don't even realize that are our greatest assets. It's just been amazing since then.
The Hero’s Journey isn’t complete until the Hero returns home with the elixir to offer others.
I'm bringing back experience. I always say this thing in my posts and that's: you're amazing, you're awesome, you're worth it. There's only one you in this world. You're not a part of any type of assembly line, you're not a part of any type of mass production but you’re fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made. So, there's things in this world that only you can change OK?. And those changes that you want to see, be them first. So, you can go out in the world and make those changes.I feel like I'm bringing life for people to choose life and here you have an example of it. People that you can relate to.
I don't like when people come to me and be like oh I understand. No, you don't. No, you don't. It’s a difference of empathy and sympathy, there's a difference. So, don't come to me with certain things about saying you understand if you ain't been through nothing that I've experienced. So, for the simple fact that which one I'm like, “Okay God, thank you that I went through so much.” But, I can come really from experience so you can relate and be like, “Okay, whoa, she came out of it so can I.
She's dealing with it so can I. How can I do that?” Well, let's do this together. I may not have the answers to everything and I probably never will, but I do know that I can walk with you through this. You know what I mean? And we will figure it out as we go. So, I just feel like hope, like true hope and just love and freedom, like just liberty, like let’s be free. I guess it just boils down to that, like that's how I give back. Through my voice, through my music and through my life, being an example. That's the best thing I can give.
And you do.
You're a warrior. Right? You rose out of the ashes and you’ve constituted yourself into this powerhouse and I'm sure you always were but you got pummeled so early.
Yeah, and I'm grateful for because it really made me who I am. It literally did and I'm powerful because I was weak. You know what I mean? I feel like you have to experience the opposites to appreciate strength. I know about joy, people are like, why do you smile in pain?
Well, because there was a time where I couldn't. There was a time where I couldn't move my fingers. I couldn't hold a cup I was literally shattering everything because my motor skills, it would just drop. I remember I couldn't go to the restroom on my own. I remember I couldn't blink without it being painful, I remember my sight was going away, I remember not being able to get out of bed, I remember not being able to sweep the floor. Just something that simple of walking outside the door and the sun not put sores all over my skin. I remember a time and it may happen again every now and then, but the fact that it today it hasn't, it's a good day.
And we don't appreciate those things. We focus on what we don't have or what we're trying to get to instead of appreciating what we have now and the small blessings that are huge blessings, we don't appreciate it. So, that's another thing that I bring is appreciate what you have. Appreciate the things that you have right now. If you can wiggle your toes, oh count it all joy, literally count it all joy because there's people who don't have feeling down there and don't even remember they have feet. It is just that simple. So, just appreciating life, the small things, things that we take for granted. It is not something that is owed to you. No, it is a privilege.
So your pain has kept you awake?
Oh, yeah, oh yeah. I definitely know I was alive. I definitely knew I was alive.
Isn’t that interesting that at the brink of death you feel life?
But that's purpose, there's a purpose for everything. And sometimes, we need that awakening and I'm like, God you don’t gotta do it anymore. I'm good, I'm awake, what'd you say? I'm okay, no okay you got my attention what happened? I can't do it.
I left this superhero with a few words.
Oh, my gosh. Well, the world is so fortunate to have you living and giving your voice in so many different ways like this way and your singing voice isn't unreal and your spirit is powerful and beautiful and pristine. And I'm so grateful that you were willing to do this and share your heart.
Thank you for having me. I'm just so glad we finally got to do it.
You can keep up with Janice by following her on Instagram. Check out her upcoming show schedule in the show notes.
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